“A HAND IS a world in itself,” wrote Marcia Lee Masters, a newswoman and the daughter of the better-known poet Edgar Lee.
How true. Hands help us get everything done. They’re the agents of the brain’s circuit board and the fount of the heart.
Take a look at one or both of your hands right now. Really look. Think about all they do and get into in a day. Reckon those days into years.
Consider what and how and whom those hands have touched, how with gestures they elucidate the imprecise language of words. Picture the complexity of their 27 bones. Celebrate the wonder of the opposable thumb.
Like the proverbial bee, hands are busy, especially in summertime. With long days and vacation, hands are on the go grabbing tennis rackets or golf clubs from the back of the closet, hauling a watermelon for a picnic, gripping hot steering wheels, turning the pages of an absorbing beach read or swiping a screen.
Maybe those hands hover over a keyboard during the dog days, working overtime.
So, look again at your hands and send them affection.
Here are eight simple moves to help keep hands happy. Be tender and sensible, honoring the hands (and their shoulders) by respecting their limits. Practice each movement for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Rest fingertips on shoulders, elbows out to the sides. Gently rotate the elbows as if drawing a circle on opposite walls with a marker attached to elbow points. Experiment with circles large and small, both directions.
- Bring palms together, thumbs resting on the breastbone. Gently press the entire surfaces of the palms together. Allow the shoulder blades to slip down the back and the back and the sides of the neck to feel spacious.
- Release and extend the arms in front of the body at shoulder height. Form soft fists. Circle the wrists in both directions.
- Keeping the arms extended, sparkle the fingers, opening and closing the hands rapidly.
- Bring the arms back to the body, wrapping one over the other in a tight hug. Reach as far around as you can, making contact anywhere from the backs of the upper arms to the shoulder blades. Hold tight, drop the chin toward the chest and breathe. Lift the face, replacing the head atop the spine, unwind the arms and repeat, opposite arm on top.
- Bring the arms straight out to the sides of the body, fingers pointing up, and press through the heels of the hands. Find the origin of this movement between the shoulder blades. Maintain powerful arms and integrated shoulders as you point fingertips down.
- Arms extended in front again, open the left hand, palm toward the ceiling. Place the thumb of the right hand at the base of the little finger. With gentle pressure from the right hand fingers, move the left hand pinky down, over the thumb. It’s as if the pinky finger is pole-vaulting over the thumb of the opposite hand. Work your way through all the fingers of the left hand. Repeat on the other side.
- Keeping arms extended, sparkle the fingers again, opening and closing the hands rapidly. Then, close the hands into medium-tight fists. Squeeze. Release.
Love your hands — and whole body — throughout each day by turning hand washing into a simple mindfulness practice.
As you wash your hands, whether in the museum loo, the office restroom or at the kitchen sink, draw sensory attention to the sensation of the water on the wrists and the fingers’ webbing. While washing, say a simple, “Thank you, hands.”
Prefer a light-hearted approach?
Listen to and memorize the happy hand washing song from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Taking time to notice and care for palms, fingers, nails and thumbs, you might feel, like Marcia Lee, how a hand is a world in itself, carrying personal histories and intentions. By starting with what’s at your hand, you might notice the billions of others’ worlds in their hands and the wonder of all that gets done and undone with plain digits.
— Alexa Mergen
Alexa Mergen teaches small-group and private lessons in yoga, meditation and writing in Harpers Ferry, W.V. and Washington, D.C., and edits Yoga Stanza. Her last post was on how to stay cool in a hot city.